Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Friday, 6 February 2015

A review from pre-blog days - Footsteps - Katharine McMahon

I'm sharing a book review I wrote before I started my book blog and which originally appeared elsewhere. My 'before the blog' review posts are inspired by Karen at My Reading Corner and Janet at fromfirstpagetolast.

(originally read and reviewed in 2009, I was given my copy of this novel by a colleague)

The women in Helena Mayrick's family have always led secretive and tragic lives, and when Helena's comfortable marriage is devastated by her husband's violent death, it seems that she, too, is locked into the cycle.

Helena is invited to research a book on her grandfather, H. Donaldson, the celebrated Edwardian photographer. At first she is reluctant to immerse herself in family history, particularly as Donaldson's relationship with her grandmother, Ruth, is shrouded in mystery and turmoil.

But gradually, as the story of enigmatic Ruth and the elusive, passionate Donaldson unfolds, Helena finds that the past, like the present, was shaped by cruel dilemmas and the demands of love...


I was given this novel by a colleague as a recommendation, and I'm so glad I was! It is the most enchanting, beautiful novel I've read for awhile. Wonderfully written, it tells the story of Helena Mayrick close to the present day, trying to overcome tragedy and embarking reluctantly at first on writing a book about her relation Donaldson, who was a famous photographer, and of her Grandmother Ruth Styles in the early part of the twentieth century, with a chapter alternately set in the present and then the past throughout the book.

Ruth Styles is the lynchpin to the whole novel and the most intriguing and devastating character, to whom all else somehow relates. She grows up by the sea in Suffolk, in a small village, and it is this place which shapes much of the lives of those involved. Young Ruth is intelligent, bright, and sparky, and has a profound and lasting effect on many around her, most noteably on Donaldson, the photographer who comes to Westwich and so begins his lifelong fascination with Ruth. As a reader, I was intensely curious and compelled to read on and find out what would happen to her, and so much does!

There is a marvelous sense of place within the novel, and it is clear the bearing the proximity of the sea has on several of the characters. The book is about the repercussions of the past; about love, forbidden love, lost love, unfulfilled love; it is about the draw of a particular landscape and how it can free or restrict a person, and it is about choices and fulfillment of potential, especially for women, which is a key theme of this author. Highly recommended.


  1. Loving the cover, my imagination has gone into overdrive picturing the rest of the image. I'm glad this was such a good read.

  2. I love this kind of multi-generation look into the past kind of book. I hadn't come across it but it is such a "me" kind of book. Thanks for sharing! Adding it to my TBR!

  3. A strong sense of place. a beautiful cover, and the historical aspect . . . This book sounds like something I would enjoy. I will have to look for it.


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